Two area schools will be using grants to improve safety.
Clarksburg C-II and Prairie Home R-V school districts each received $50,000 school safety grants through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to enhance security and communication throughout their buildings. According to a DESE news release, the $20-million grant program will benefit 169 districts throughout the state. Funds can also be used for bleeding control kits and automatic external defibrillators to be used in emergency situations.
Clarksburg C-II Superintendent Nathan Bestgen said the funds will "improve communication on campus, allow for better security and access throughout the building and provide for a more secure school environment."
He added the district already started working with vendors to complete the improvements and see how far the $50,000 can be stretched. The work is done alongside an expansion project, which, he said, will add a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) storm shelter and additional classrooms to the school.
"We are grateful to have been chosen," Bestgen wrote in an email to the Democrat. "These improvements will go a long way in making (our) campus more secure. We are still waiting on FEMA money but we are looking forward to adding these security measures to our new building addition that we are hoping to start as well."
Bestgen said the expansion project will add between 10-13 new classrooms to the school. The project is still in the planning stage, and the district is waiting on already-approved FEMA funds to be disbursed. A $1 million 90-10 FEMA match grant and a $1 million bond measure passed by voters is funding the project.
Prairie Home R-V Superintendent Jordan Hoecker said the district will use the grant to replace doors, add keyless-entry technology, update a window in a secure-entry vestibule, add security cameras, upgrade its intercom system and add shatter-resistant film to windows throughout its building.
"Overall, I believe the strategy of addressing several different areas will provide the biggest impact in giving our students and staff a safe environment to learn and grow in," he said. "For instance, the keyless entry and its corresponding software will allow district staff to manage the locking and unlocking of doors for school and community events without the need for hard key copies. This should secure our building during and after the school day. The updates of doors, receptionist windows, and shatterproof film will give our building physical upgrades, while the cameras and intercom upgrades will help with prevention and communication."
Hoecker said the work will occur over summer break, with other parts being completed throughout the next school year. He added the grant application process looked at building age and its current safety infrastructure, along with project costs, to determine recipients.
"School safety is a high priority for us at Prairie Home," Hoecker said. "We have already made significant upgrades this year prior to the grant to ensure our students and staff have a safe and secure place to learn, grow, and thrive."
He added that the district installed Z-locks, a steel bar that can be installed to connect the door to its metal frame to secure interior doors from intruders, and placed "lockdown buckets" in each classroom filled with supplies for emergency situations. Staff have also been equipped with walkie-talkie radios for communication.
"Our staff led safety committee has played a large part in getting these new improvements in place, and we are extremely excited and grateful to be able to continue building on these improvements with our grant funds," Hocker said.
The two districts are not the only ones in the area beefing up security.
Although the California R-I School District did not receive the school safety grant, it too has been improving security at its buildings. Z-locks and bulletproof film on exterior windows have been installed throughout the district since last summer, and a new SafeDefend system will be installed this summer. The SafeDefend system features a biometrically-operated control system that, when activated by a staff member, will automatically notify local and state law enforcement of an emergency situation while unlocking safes in each classroom. The safes will contain first aid kits and offensive measures, along with high-visibility vests and other tools for use in an emergency situation.